Once Upon a Time continues to underwhelm us, and if the next episode doesn't do something drastic then next Monday will be our final thoughts on this experiment. We're skipping Pan-Am (Which is amazing) and the Walking Dead (Which we haven't even had the time to touch on our DVR yet) in order to review this show, and the trade-off is starting to feel like an Enron pension.
For a change, we focus on the fairytale side of the episode. Usually our flashbacks into the enchanted land are hokey and badly done, probably the result of Disney allowing other people the run of their property without any of their famous quality control. However, this time they did manage to do some pretty good work.
First off, thank you God for whoever is in charge of teaching these actors swordplay and horsemanship. We don't what it is, but every film and TV show we've watched in the last three years has featured actors bouncing around on the back of a horse without any sort of grace or even the ability your average Girl Scout can manage. By contrast, we have some really amazing chase scenes, as well as a wonderfully pulled off abduction of Snow White (Ginnfer Goodwin) by a mounted knight. For the first time while watching Once Upon a Time we were actually thrilled with the action.
In addition to a medieval chase scene we were also pleased to watch Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) badass it up a bit taking out a trio of the Evil Queen's (Lana Parilla) soldiers. In addition to some great knife throwing and archery, he gives some real historical accuracy to the battle by hacking at the unarmored legs of his opponent rather than pointlessly aiming at his well-defended torso. Honestly, it was one of the better period fight scenes we'd seen in a while, so kudos to the stunt team on this one.
All this action is the result of Snow White living as a thief in the forest in order to finance her escape from the Evil Queen's kingdom where a prominent bounty is placed on her head. Charming, riding with his fiancée in an arranged marriage, is her target, and she steals the engagement ring. The rest of the episode follows Charming as he tracks Snow, their arrangement to put back the ring she stole and subsequently sold, and their blossoming friendship and possible romance.
Further accolades must go to Once Upon a Time's make-up FX team for their trolls. Snow and Charming visit their bridge as it was they who Snow sold the ring to. We can't be certain, but the look of the trolls seemed to have been very Norwegian based, and reminded us of the fantastic time we had as a child watching the Adventures of David the Gnome. Granted, these are bloodthirsty thugs and not the comparatively likable version who we think they took their inspiration from, but the look of them regardless really pulled you into the fantasy setting.
The unfortunate thing about all this wonder work in the enchanted past is that for the most part it simply doesn't matter.
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If you're reading this, Hollywood (Pfft, if) then let us tell you a secret; No one cares about a prequel. No one. We already know how it ends, and that means that we will never, ever really fear for our heroes or cower from our villains. We know Snow and Charming end up together, so you're really just making us sit through the middle of a movie after already seeing the climax. Literally! You showed it to us in the first episode.
Do we want to know what the fallout out was between Snow and the Queen that you keep hinting at? Yes, but in the end it's really immaterial. No matter how bad it is it cannot possibly be bad enough to justify throwing an entire universe into stasis, murdering your father, and the other cartoonishly evil thing the Queen has done. We don't care if she caught Snow White setting a basket of the Queen's puppies on fire while changing her computer desktop to that picture from lemonparty.org. There is no way we're ever going to be forced to see the Queen as anything other than being a mustache away from Snidely Whiplash.
The episode suffered a lot from no appearance by Robert Carlyle as either Rumpelstiltskin or Mr. Gold, though previews of next week tease a nice big part for him in the tale of Cinderella. Lee Arenberg was back as Grumpy, but he only had three lines as a maintenance worker in the hospital where a comatose Charming suddenly woke up and fled. The really should be giving him more screen time as he manages to make every second of it count.
One more week, friends and enemies. If they don't pull off a good one next week we're pulling the plug. Once Upon a Time airs on ABC Sundays at 9/8 p.m. Central.